TechLaw Group Inc., a coalition of technology-focused law firms, has elected its first woman to a leadership position since its inception in 1986.
Jennifer Lloyd Kelly, a litigation partner at Fenwick & West in San Francisco who also serves as chairwoman of the firm’s gaming and digital media practice, was elected last week to TechLaw’s executive board. She will serve as the organization’s treasurer this year and become its first female president in 2021.
TechLaw, created almost 30 years ago by five large U.S. law firms, has grown into a group of 25 international law firms that serve as a referral network, as well as a venue for technology lawyers to share insights and best practices for their clients in the industry.
The Recorder caught up with Kelly, recently named one of several Women Leaders in Tech Law, to discuss her new role and what it means for female lawyers in the technology sector.
TR: So how does it feel to be named to TechLaw’s executive board?
JLK: I had a number of conversations with the current leadership about whether this was something [in which] I’d be interested. I said that I was, and was absolutely delighted when notified that I had been elected.
TR: You’ve been practicing for nearly 20 years, with about 17 of those at Fenwick & West. How did you first get involved with TechLaw?
JLK: [Fenwick’s] been a member of TechLaw for quite some time [and] historically had two representatives from the firm that served in TechLaw. The previous representative who’s slot I filled a couple of years ago left the firm, and so when that spot opened up, the other representative approached me. I had been to a TechLaw conference before where the subject was gaming—that’s my area of expertise—[and] I had spoken on a panel and got to know a number of people from the organization. A substantial number of my clients are located outside the U.S., so for me having a strong international network was really valuable.
TR: Why is an organization like TechLaw important? And what does it provide to lawyers and law firms within the technology sector?
JLK: It’s a really trusted network of people. I have formed deep relationships with other representatives from other firms and I know that if I were to call up somebody in one of the member firms and say, ‘My client is having a particular issue, is there someone at your firm who is the right person?’ I trust them to give me a yes-or-no answer. We have that level of trust with each other and I also know that if I refer a matter to another TechLaw firm, they’re going to do a great job and take good care of my client.
TR: So you were also at the same time elected president but you won’t assume leadership until 2021. Why is there such a long delay?
JLK: There’s a level of progression within the leadership—it starts out with treasurer, then vice president, then president-elect and then president—so at any given time, there are four members on the executive board. The way it works now is when you begin your position, you hold that position for two meetings. So my first meeting as treasurer will be the Spring 2018 conference in Washington, D.C., and I will still be treasurer for the Fall 2018 conference in Melbourne, Australia.
TR: When you do assume leadership of the organization, or in your role as a member of the executive board, what are some specific issues you’re going to be looking to address during your tenure?
JLK: At the discussions we have at the executive board meetings, which includes firm representatives, the leadership will present to the larger group things that it’s thinking about, such as matters that are of interest to our clients and what are the new technologies that we can be using as law firms to help increase our efficiency in the practice of law.
For example, at the fall meeting that Fenwick hosted in San Francisco, we brought in a vendor to give a presentation about the use of artificial intelligence in some of the corporate work that our lawyers do that dramatically decreases the amount of time that lawyers spend on things. This was something of great interest to the other law firms.
TR: There have been a lot of high-profile issues with regard to gender discrimination in the technology sector, be it from Google to Constance Ramos’ suit against Winston & Strawn. As an executive board member, will this now put you in a position to address some of these issues, and, if so, how?
JLK: I certainly hope so. About three years ago I went to a board meeting [at TechLaw] and I kind of looked around the room and I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t see any other women.’ But I had such a nice talk with the current president who said, ‘We are so delighted to have you join us. As you can see we haven’t had many women in the organization and we’d really like to change that.’ And so I would like to encourage more female participation in TechLaw and think about how to promote female leadership within our own law firms.
All interviews are condensed and edited for style, grammar and clarity.